Mick Dawson – A Celebration!
October 28, 2022 12:00 pm Marcus Ó Buachalla
Last weekend, at Aviva Stadium, was Mick Dawson’s last home game as Leinster Rugby CEO.
A journey that started in November 2001 came to a fitting conclusion on Lansdowne Road, and adjacent to the Lansdowne FC clubhouse, where Mick is the current President as they celebrate 150 years in existence.
Today, over in Parc y Scarlets, the curtain will be formally drawn on a brilliant career.
Mick is from Dublin and from a family with a huge interest in the game. He went to school in CUS and played with his beloved Lansdowne after leaving school. After hanging up the boots, he threw himself into matters away from the field.
He managed the first XV and was also Director of Rugby with Lansdowne between 1998-2001 and served on numerous committees. He was due to be President of Lansdowne for the 2003/04 season but only a few years into his new role in Leinster Rugby, he had to step aside. Thankfully, the role has come back his way now for the 2022/23 season.
Mick knew the way the system worked and knew that to make rugby or indeed any organisation tick, you needed good people around you.
In November 2001 it was now up to him to make Leinster Rugby tick.
It’s fair to say as we look back on his legacy, that he more than made Leinster Rugby tick.
On the pitch, the success is evident in the trophies won but off the pitch is where he arguably left his greatest mark.
Moving from Donnybrook to the RDS, building the stand in Donnybrook, the two artificial pitches in Energia Park, the move to UCD, some of the coaching appointments, players like Isa Nacewa signed from abroad, the investment in the club and the schools game, the growth of the girls and the women’s game, and of course, the building of the Ken Wall Centre of Excellence.
He was also instrumental in attracting big sponsors and partners like Bank of Ireland, another key moment in 2007.
He’d be the first to say that it was never about just him. There were others helping him out. Numerous committees and boards. The Executive, Management, Commercial, Finance, the Professional Game Board.
And good people like Paul McNaughton and Brian McLoughlin in the early days, and more recently someone the calibre of Ray Ryan as Honorary Treasurer for over 15 years.
And of course, more recent confidantes like Frank Sowman, Frank Doherty, Stuart Bayley and Billy Murphy to name but a few.
Today, on his last day as Leinster Rugby CEO, we can be forgiven for making it all about Mick and celebrating his role in making Leinster Rugby what it is today.
To Aileen, to Jack and to Nicola, we say a heartfelt thank you, for allowing us to borrow Mick for all these years.
We hand him back to you in relatively good condition! And we wish you all every happiness together as a family as you all set about enjoying his retirement.
Before he signs off, what better tribute, than to hear from a few of those that have worked closest with Mick over the last few years.
Here is Mick, in their own words.
I’d like to say a big thank you to Mick Dawson for everything he has done, not only for Leinster Rugby but also for me personally.
Professional sport can be a cut-throat business at times, but Mick has always had an amazing ability to maintain the ‘dual mandate’ of Leinster, in other words balancing the professional with the amateur ethos of our great club.
We have shared some brilliant days together and we will miss him greatly.
In the meantime, I’m sure he’ll have plenty to keep him busy as President of Lansdowne FC, especially as they celebrate 150 proud seasons.
We look forward to welcoming Mick and Aileen back here to games and to the club for many years to come.
He was a breath of fresh air from day one. And you think of the growth from those early days. From a prefab to what we now have in UCD. Only two full-time employees and another three part-time, plus the evergreen Ultan Daly, who looked after Donnybrook. And now today in modern offices in UCD you have well over 20 full-time people plus admin and support staff.
Mick oversaw all of that. More than that he oversaw the growth of Leinster from a perceived D4 club to a 12 county, province-wide supported club.
And then how he did it all. His laid back and professionalism was second to none. “Deal with your daily work issues” he’d say to us. And then of course he had the famous 3Ds.
“Decide. Delegate. Disappear.” And he laid that mantra out at the very first staff meeting!
Another one that he was fond of was “come with the solution not the problem, and if I do not like the solution, it is my problem.”
He was the perfect boss.
Mick, go off and enjoy yourself.
The eve of match social activities on away trips usually concluded with a nightcap at the bar when the prospects for the following day and similar matters would be discussed at length.
Though rarely the first to leave, the time would come when Mick would be anxious to get back to the hotel in order be in good shape for his diplomatic duties the next day.
On one such occasion, Mick interrupted a rambling conversation to suggest that we should order a taxi to bring us back to the hotel.
As diplomatically as possible, we explained to Mick that we were actually sitting in the bar of our hotel. That being the case, and as a taxi was not required, we all agreed that there was time for another nightcap!
I have very much enjoyed each and every one of those many away trips, Mick, and every meeting and occasion in your company, always a pleasure.
Mick Dawson leaves a strong legacy as he departs his role as Leinster Rugby CEO.
He is a man that gets things done and does so with the minimum of fuss. He invariably makes common sense decisions. He cuts to the chase. He is adept at defusing tricky issues. His antennae are typically well tuned. He makes it his business to get on with people. And he uses humour to great effect.
During his 21-year tenure he has dealt with literally scores of volunteers who have, at one time or another, served on Leinster Branch committees across a myriad of disciplines. In doing so he maintained a personable and helpful demeanour throughout, even if the odd time he was required to display the patience of Job.
Due to the fact that he himself was a great clubman in his playing days, he fundamentally understood the importance of nurturing amateur rugby throughout Leinster.
He has travelled with generations of Leinster squads to venues right around Europe. All the while, he has been a great ambassador, not just for his province, but for Ireland too.
From my first conversation with Mick, way back in early 2008, I always knew what direction and aspirations Mick had for Leinster. He was always very supportive of the head coach whether it was Cheiks, Joe, Leo, and later on Stuart.
Mick’s support was there through the highs and the lows. I think this is rare in a CEO.
Personally, I always treasured our chats, on the way home from away games. Whether it be after big Heineken Cup matches, or returning from Wales in the middle of winter in the early hours of the morning. Mick was always open to chat and was always 100% supportive regardless of the outcome!
What a legend. Best of luck for the future, Mick.
I go way back. Saw him as a young fella playing cricket.
He’s been brilliant. Without Mick, Leinster would have struggled. Big time.
What can you say about Mick? I remember him scoring a winning try for Lansdowne. Down in Donnybrook in a league final. Him crawling along the ground to score!
He was a top-class tennis player as well which not many know about. He was the number one tennis player in Donnybrook. That was big back then. To be the number one. In Donnybrook. He was the number one fella. But he’s moved up to Fitzwilliam now. Notions.
He’s still trying to get into Portmarnock too I hear. A few got in before him, which he’s not happy about. But he still hasn’t got in there. He has to wait his turn. I’m not sure what the attraction is? It’s always windy and raining. But that’s Mick for you.
Mick is a great man for entertaining people and a great man for the five o’clock club. They know who they are! They will remain nameless! I remember him dancing in South Africa when the Dubs won the All-Ireland. I was there. Myself, Mick and Ruaidhrí O’Connor from the Irish Independent. That’s where all the leaks came from.
What more can I say about him? I’ll see him on Saturday and we’ll have a good laugh about all of this. That’s Mick, though, isn’t it? A great fella. And he’s done a brilliant job at Leinster.
I don’t actually know what to say about Mick.
All I can say is that I’ve enjoyed every day working with Mick. He’s allowed us all to become better than what we were when we first started in our roles a long time ago now. He didn’t interfere and he let us get on with things.
Throughout it all, it’s probably his sense of humour that I will remember the most. He is a particularly unique individual – I think – and while he doesn’t take things too seriously, he still manages to get the things done that need to get done.
I’m very proud to have worked with him for the last 20 plus years and I wish him all the best.
It’s very hard to put it all into words if I’m honest. 20 years is a long time and because he’s been brilliant to work with.
We had a lot of transition in Mick’s time, and, in my opinion, he was the ideal person to oversee it. Going from Kurt McQuilkin’s rat episode in Donnybrook to UCD was a journey with many twists and turns but Mick had a quiet determination to get things done and to always move Leinster forward both on and off the field at both professional and domestic game level.
Having come from a club background in Lansdowne where he played, coached and managed teams from minis to senior he knew that the success at professional level had to be underpinned by a successful club and school game.
Once you could explain the rationale and show the vision Mick was fully supportive. In his time the rugby department went from having four staff members covering all aspects of the game to having a staff of 60 plus personnel delivering across the province. Mick always had my back and for that I will always be grateful.
In all our time I only had one slight fall out with Mick and that was during a discussion.
You see, Mick never did arguments, but there was this one day that I had the audacity to call Mick ‘Michael’ upon which Mick drew breath and said, “Philip. Only my mother calls me Michael”.
It was a slight that I never repeated.
A lot has been spoken and rightly so about the culture of the Leinster Senior team and the management involved in creating that, but Leinster Rugby is much more than just the Senior team it is a hugely diverse organisation encompassing clubs, schools, communities, councils, sponsors , committees and staff all working together to create a fun quality rugby environment so that girls and boys, men and women, coaches, players and referees can enjoy themselves and fulfil their ambitions.
It takes a special person to be able to oversee such an environment to ensure each area is equality appreciated and respected, all the time ensuring it continuously evolves to meet future demands.
Mick has been that person.
This really is a team, a club, an organisation and a structure for Mick to be proud of.
Mick being Mick though, he is not one to sit back on his laurels and relax as he is taking up a new role as President of Lansdowne FC for what is their 150th year. In doing so he’ll maintain a proud family tradition of following in the footsteps of his brother Mark, father Jack and grandfather Michael who too were also past presidents of the club.
Whilst the OLSC don’t deal with Mick on a day-to-day basis, it’s clear he sees the role and the impact the committee and the supporters have on the Leinster set-up, and this is a credit to him and one we are very thankful for.
Those in attendance at the Supporters Q&A over the recent summer with Mick, Leo Cullen and Tania Rosser can see what Leinster means to Mick and how this wasn’t an easy decision for him.
There’s an old Irish proverb, the work praises the man, and it’s clear to see this with Mick.
For me he has just been a bloody good bloke.
He has been unbelievably supportive, with a positive outlook on all things that enabled Leinster Rugby to grow into professionalism under his guidance.
Any idea you brought to Mick was always given due consideration and I really appreciated everything that he has done for me personally, particularly in guiding and advising me in the early years as I learnt the ropes.
I see that others have already mentioned his 3Ds…and I quickly realised why he wanted to ‘delegate’ so much and this was something he was very good at! I saw that at first hand with him handing over the player contracting piece to me in the early days!
It was my pleasure to work closely with Mick for 16 years. From the early days it was clear that Mick was forward thinking, supportive of innovation and new ideas.
Highlights of our 16 years working together include the installation of the two all-weather pitches in Energia Park, the Ken Wall Centre of Excellence, hosting the Irish Women’s Hockey Olympic Qualifiers, various concerts and of course not forgetting the many rugby occasions, internationals, schools’ cups and leagues.
Mick’s leadership as CEO has been instrumental to Leinster’s success on and off the pitch.
May I take this opportunity to thank him for his support and wish him well on his retirement and look forward to welcoming him to the retirement back benches!